BBC News – New Gaza war ‘a question of when, not if’

Israeli tank crew observes the Gaza border (22 September 2009)
The UN says at least 62 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli action in Gaza so far this year

A senior Israeli army officer has told the BBC that as long as Hamas remains in control of the Gaza Strip, another war is “a question of when, not if”.

He said the Palestinian Islamist group had rearmed so much since the Israeli offensive two years ago that it was now in a stronger position militarily.

There has been an increase in rocket fire coming from Gaza in the past week.

Earlier, Israeli defence officials said tanks fitted with a new missile defence system would be deployed near Gaza.

The Israeli-developed active protection system (APS) known as Trophy is designed to destroy missiles like the Russian-made AT-14 Kornet, one of which hit a Merkava Mk3 tank on 6 December.

The laser-guided missile – which carries 10kg (22lb) of high explosive – penetrated the tank’s armour, but did not injure its crew.

“Fortunately, it did not explode within the tank. It is a heavy missile that is among the most dangerous that we have seen on this front and was not used even during the Lebanon war,” Israeli Chief-of-Staff Lt-Gen Gabi Ashkenazi told a closed-door parliamentary session on Tuesday.

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The situation in the south is very fragile and explosive”

End Quote Lt-Gen Gabi Ashkenazi Israeli Chief-of-Staff

“The situation in the south is very fragile and explosive.”

The Trophy APS, which has so far been fitted to a battalion of more advanced Merkava Mk4 tanks, uses radars and sensors to identify threats, then releases special explosives to neutralise them.

No Palestinian militant groups have said they were behind the attack.

Hamas is not thought to have been behind the increased rocket fire from Gaza this week, to which Israel retaliated with air strikes.

However, Israel has said it will increase attacks on Hamas facilities even if the movement is not responsible.

The UN has said at least 62 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli action in Gaza so far this year. Over the same period, one Thai farm worker has been killed by rockets fired from the coastal territory into Israel.

Israel’s 22-day clash with Palestinian militants in Gaza left an estimated 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead.

BBC News – New Gaza war ‘a question of when, not if’.

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